One of the many ongoing challenges facing business leaders today is how to deal with staff shortages. The declining labor force has impacted nearly all business sectors causing disruptions of all kinds.
The problem became predominant as the world began to open back up after the COVID pandemic, however, while related, labor shortages are not due to the pandemic.
The labor force has been changing for years and many predicted the shortages ahead of the pandemic.
There are many reasons for staff shortages such as the many generations that focused on attaining college degrees versus trade certifications.
In some industries, the opposite is true. The tech industry, for example, struggles to find enough people with advanced degrees. Other issues are resulting from younger generations that expect more training and support from their employer and are willing to change jobs until they find the right fit.
And still, some of the issues are that people are not willing to do the work whether it's because of the type of work or the low wages typically associated with the job.
The cleaning industry, for example, regularly faces these challenges. Reasons for this correlate with the increased focus on cleanliness and stricter cleaning guidelines, resulting in increasing workloads.
This is in addition to other issues the cleaning industry regularly deals with such as unclear expectations for staff, unpredictable hours, and repetitive tasks that can lead to lack of interest. Burnout is common and turnover is high.
The healthcare industry is another example that faces a variety of staffing challenges due to a lack of people trained in the trade, increasing amounts of unhealthy people, and lack of appropriate supplies (leading many to be concerned for their health), and across the industry, long shifts that lead to burn out, not to mention not enough upper management to help support other staff members through disruptive or troubling times.
Some of these most affected industries are also the ones that are projected to see growth in available jobs such as the cleaning, healthcare, and assisted care industries, as well as in the food preparation industry.
These issues result in overall customer dissatisfaction and lost business, and that can mean lost revenue for businesses. And these challenges are faced and felt across the globe.
According to a Korn Ferry study, the global economy is expected to face a talent shortage of “85.2 million people” and the result could be “8.452 trillion dollars in unrealized annual revenue.”
So, how can business leaders work to overcome staff shortages and make sure their company is on track with growth and revenue? We have some tips.
Autonomous solutions are growing in number and popularity. Most industries have already implemented some sort of autonomous technology to support employees, clients, and thus the business. Helping with staffing issues is one area where robots can make a significant impact.
For one, robots are reliable and consistent. Cobots (collaborative robots) are on time and never miss a day of work, and due to advanced navigation software, once they learn the task they are designed to do they repeat it the same way over and over again, making it a very consistent solution.
For example, Cobi 18 is an autonomous floor scrubber designed to take on the job of floor cleaning. Once the cobot is trained, it scrubs the same routes over and over again. Plus, due to machine learning capabilities, Cobi improves its cleaning route the more it is used, making it a very efficient tool for keeping floors clean.
Besides that, cobots are meant to support existing staff by taking on repetitive tasks. Cobi is easy to use, and staff can quickly deploy it with three taps.
Once the cobot is deployed, it takes care of the floor cleaning leaving staff to focus on customers, clean other critical areas, or get to other tasks that often get pushed to the bottom of the list due to lack of time. This in turn helps to increase cleanliness in the facility but also supports the overall productivity and efficiency of staff members.
Data continues to show that there is a need for workers at all levels. This can be hard to navigate, especially with inflation and increasing wages. It can be tempting to cut back on workers, but this can be a big mistake because it leads to staff members who are stressed. After all, they cannot keep up with the workload, resulting in burnout and turnover.
Cutting back on staffing can also lead to decreased morale, leaving employees who are trying to stay on top of the workload to feel disgruntled. As a result, turnover rates increase leaving businesses to struggle and miss out on increasing revenue.
Having an adequate number of staff members and finding ways to reward and value employees can go a long way toward making the business successful.
Simple things like weekly meetings that highlight employees who have gone above and beyond, or rewarding staff with small monetary gifts regularly provide employees with opportunities to be recognized and show recognition to their team members.
It’s also an opportunity for management to highlight employee performance and show appreciation to team members. This can go a long way towards creating better team morale and creating an atmosphere that is positive and rewarding, making staff members less likely to look for work elsewhere.
Training and development programs can also help to reduce staff shortages. By setting up training and development programs, and offering incentives for participating, employees learn new skills.
These skills are then applied on the job resulting in more educated and trained staff and improved outcomes. Employees who continually learn and grow often work harder to take on new responsibilities and can become leaders within the company.
Cross-training employees is another way to help with staff shortages. This involves teaching employees skills and tasks outside of their primary job responsibilities.
By doing so, businesses can create a more versatile workforce that is able to adapt to changing circumstances. Cross-training can be particularly beneficial in industries where there is high staff turnover, such as hospitality or retail.
To effectively cross-train employees, businesses should develop a training program that outlines the skills and tasks that employees will be learning.
The program should include both theoretical and practical components, and employees should be given ample time to practice new skills.
By providing employees with the opportunity to learn new skills, businesses can create a more motivated and engaged workforce that is less likely to experience burnout.
Offering flexible work arrangements can be an effective way to retain employees and prevent staff shortages. Flexible work arrangements can include options such as telecommuting, part-time work, or flexible schedules.
By offering these options, businesses can create a more accommodating work environment that is able to meet the needs of employees.
Flexible work arrangements can be particularly beneficial for employees who have caregiving responsibilities or who are pursuing education or other professional development opportunities. By offering flexibility, businesses can retain valuable employees who might otherwise leave due to competing demands on their time.
Recruiting and hiring plans that forecast and map out the path of a role can be incredibly helpful as well. This allows key skills and personality traits to be determined ahead of hiring, resulting in a more successful hire.
For example, knowing the growth structure of a role could lead an employer to hire a candidate with less immediate applicable skills, but stronger long-term growth skills or mindset because the immediate on-hand skills are easy to train, but the growth mindset or long-term skills of the candidate are harder to train.
The result is more people working for a company longer because they have a path to follow and are guided in that direction.
One of the most effective long-term strategies for overcoming staffing shortages is to increase wages and benefits. When wages and benefits are competitive, businesses are more likely to attract and retain high-quality employees. This can help to reduce turnover and prevent staffing shortages in the long run.
To determine the appropriate level of wages and benefits, businesses should conduct market research to determine the average rates for their industry and geographic region.
They should also consider the cost of living in their area and the level of skill and experience required for the job. By offering competitive wages and benefits, businesses can create a more motivated and engaged workforce that is less likely to experience burnout or seek employment elsewhere.
ICE Cobotics is a technology and cleaning equipment company specializing in automation. If you would like more information on Cobi 18, please reach out to our automation experts.
Note: This blog was originally published in April 2020 and has been updated as of May 5, 2023.